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(Mesa Police Department via AP)

PHOENIX (AP) — The attorneys and a pastor for an Arizona man beaten by police while standing against a wall said Thursday that the officer’s claim that their client posed a threat “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Andre Miller, the pastor to 33-year-old Robert Johnson, said the police description of why they struck the unarmed man doesn’t hold up.

Johnson’s attorneys also said there was no reason to attack Johnson, who in videos released this week is shown standing against a wall when officers start to punch him. The videos have circulated widely and have raised questions about police conduct at a time when police officers nationwide are under scrutiny for use of force, especially against minorities.

A report from the May 23 incident in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa states Johnson was “verbally defiant and confrontational.” Mesa police released the report, along with footage from police-worn cameras, on Wednesday after video released by Johnson’s attorneys circulated this week, raising criticism over the handling of the incident.

But Johnson’s attorneys and his pastor, who brought the incident to light, said Johnson was not a threat and showed no signs that he was combative. Johnson was charged with disorderly conduct and hindering prosecution.

“This is a case where more words needed to be used, and less fists,” attorney Joel Robbins said. “Once (Johnson) had leaned back against the wall he was incapable of continuing any kind of fight because he’s leaning against a wall.”

Three officers and a sergeant are on leave while the department investigates.

Officers were responding to a call from a woman who said her ex-boyfriend was trying to break into her apartment, police said. Police arrived and found the ex-boyfriend, Erick Reyes, 20, along with Johnson. Johnson says he was helping a neighbor get something from the apartment. Both were detained.

Footage released by the police from officer-worn cameras show an officer approaching Johnson and Reyes.

The officer asked Johnson, who was on his phone, to sit down several times but he didn’t. The officer asks him again to sit, but Johnson instead leans against a wall while looking at his phone. An officer then tells him, “Dude they told you to sit your ass down” before several officers start to repeatedly punch him.

Johnson never appears to physically threaten or resist the officers.

“Johnson’s body language was projecting he was preparing for a physical altercation,” one of the officers wrote in the report. “It appeared Johnson was trying not to sit down in order to retain a position of physical advantage by remaining on his feet.”

Will Biascoechea, the president of the police union that represents two of the officers involved, said in a statement that the incident was more complex than what is shown in the video.

“To add some context to the video, it is important to understand that the Officers were responding to a ‘domestic dispute’ that included a subject attempting to force his way into an apartment as well as the report of the presence of a gun,” Biascoechea wrote. “At this point, we urge caution and patience rather than a rush to judgment.”

The department has been criticized for its use of force. A former Mesa officer who was fired for violating department policy was tried but acquitted on a murder charge in the 2016 fatal shooting of a Texas man who was unarmed and on the ground.

Miller said this wasn’t a case of racial discrimination but rather an instance of the culture of violence within the department.

“This is a culture that has been acceptable to the city of Mesa,” Miller said.

At a news conference at his church on Thursday, Johnson was emotional and struggled to speak.

“I want Mesa to be held accountable for what they have done,” Johnson said.

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10 thoughts on “Video Of Arizona Man Beaten By Police Shows He Posed No Threat, Lawyers Say

  1. African American Woman on said:

    Some of y’all sound pitifully pathetic…maybe the black cop has a functional brain that works through his control, not the white man’s control, and made the decision to punch that guy himself!? Gasp! A black person with a working brain….What a novel idea!

  2. Mr. Johnson was attempting to show indifference and disrespect by continuing to play with his phone and ignoring orders to sit on the floor when asked by the officers, unlike his partner in crime, who immediately obeyed when he was given orders to sit. However, these officers could have easily put him on the floor without punching him. They behaved like street thugs. They should be fired. But, there is a silver lining in all this mess. Young Mr. Jonson will probably not be so willing to help break into anyone else’s apartment, and if he does have a brain fart and not remember this clusterfuck, and wind up in police custody again, he will probably be more than happy to have several seats when ordered to do so by the officers.

    • J Brewer on said:

      Where in the article did it state that Mr. Johnson was aiding anyone with breaking into someone’s apartment??

      Mr. Johnson, stated that he was their to help someone move his belongings. If the girlfriend lied about this incident she could have gotten both of those men seriously injured or killed.

      She could have just let him remove his belongings so they could have been on their way.

      Sad situation

    • Butter Pecan on said:

      Isn’t say realistically about a 98.2% chance. Why can’t these animals just keep their mouth shut and comply with an lawful order?

  3. Justbeingme on said:

    This clearly a case of police brutality and in this case it’s not a race thing because it was a black cop who gave the first blow I don’t know what he was trying to prove to his white counterparts he in my eyes is know better than some of these racist white cops. If he doesn’t have compassion for his own people. I think he should be made and example of he needs to loose his job and see how it feels to be on the other side of the law. I hope that young man sue the police department and that officer.

    • J Brewer on said:

      I thought the exact same thing of the Black officer. I mean really what was he trying to prove?? Showing out in front of and trying to fit in with his White coworkers… just pathetic.

      Johnson, isn’t a dog therefore he shouldn’t have to sit on command. The officers appeared agitated and upset prior to them unlawfully beating on him. Police representatives stated the were called because of an attempted break in by the ex who possibly had a gun.

      The officers could clearly see at the time they arrived that no one was in the act of breaking in so the officers force was unjustified. If the officers wanted to search for a weapon, what was the point of telling him to sit on the ground???…

      The officers objective was to inflict violence from the start proven by the way they approached and mishandled the situation.

      I hope each and every one of those officers are held accountable but from prior such cases I already know that they won’t.

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